Florence Alice Allen GC (AM exchanger)

b. 26/09/1906 Royal Marine Barracks, Deal, Kent.  d. 01/08/1985 Amersham, Buckinghamshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 31/05/1935 Quetta, India.

Florence Alice Allen (1906-1985) was born on the 26th September 1906 in the South Barracks, Walmer, near Dover, Kent. She was the daughter of Job and Florence Annie Allen (nee Stride). Her father was a Private in the Royal Marines.  She spent her early life abroad however, living on Ascension Island. She was educated privately on the island before being sent to the Royal Marines School at Chatham, Kent. As she recounted: ‘I come from a very military background and both my father and brother lost their lives in the last two wars.’

Florence A Allen GC

After leaving school, she trained as a nurse in Halifax, West Yorkshire. She was quoted as saying ‘I was very interested in children and used to take children of military families to see their parents overseas.’ She worked for a time as a children’ escort when they were travelling between the UK and India between the wars and at the time of her award of the AM she was nurse to Christopher, the son of Flight Lieutenant C.H.Turner, RAF, of No 5 (AC) Squadron, RAF Quetta, India (now Pakistan).

On the morning of 31st May 1935, Allen was woken by the rumbling noise and falling masonry. She rushed over to Christopher’s cot but was unable to lift him out because the mosquito net was in the way; as the house collapsed around her, she threw herself on top of the child. The boy escaped with just a small scratch but Allen was buried under the rubble for 2 days with both legs and an arm broken. Speaking nearly 50 years later she recalled: ‘Bones were broken in my arm and legs and so they had a job to get me out. When you think that 35,000 people were killed by that earthquake it takes some thinking about. It’s not something you forget. When I lay buried I remember calling out for water and saying “quickly”. A black hand appeared through the rubble with a cigarette case full of water. I never got to meet that man.’ Allen was the only investiture of the Albert Medal to be performed by King Edward VIII during his short reign. It had been delayed due to Florence’s long recuperation from her injuries.

Allen recovered from her injuries and was awarded the Albert Medal (LG, 19th November 1935). She then became a cafe owner for a time during the time of the Second World War. Florence Allen married a man with the same surname in 1946, but sadly he died of pneumonia shortly after their wedding, and after the death of her husband Mrs. Allen took up children’s nursing again with families.  She chose to exchange her medal for a George Cross in 1971, despite the fact she had mislaid her AM. She was invested with the George Cross by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on 2 November 1972, and later received the Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977. Florence Allen made national headlines in 1982 when, by now deaf and partially blind, she was attacked and robbed in her own home by two youths, who stole £25. They were later caught and convicted.

Following her retirement, she settled in Downley, Buckinghamshire. On 1st August 1985, she died in Amersham, and was cremated at the Chilterns Crematorium, and her ashes scattered in the Garden of Remembrance. Her GC and QEII Silver Jubilee Medal 1977 were sold at auction in 1993 for £3,000 and are in private ownership. Her missing Albert Medal was sold in 1984 at Sotheby’s to an unknown buyer. In December 2019, her Albert Medal came up for auction again at Dix Noonan Webb, and was sold for a hammer price of £8,500.